Archive for category summer camp church

Wring Our Hands or Bow Our Heads

On most days the newspaper publishes articles about teenagers who commit a senseless crime against someone else. From theft to violent attacks and even murder, nothing is outside the scope of possibility. While I believe that the news media should report these facts, it breaks my heart to think of the strong bonds of sin that would compel teens to commit such acts. I shake my head and wonder what kind of future they will live out. Even worse, I question what the future holds for our society that produces such young people. We often wring our hands and wonder, “Is there any hope when mere children act in such a fashion?” If we are not careful, we can become discouraged to the point of despondency.

Then I look at the big picture and thank the Lord for His work in our lives. After a week at junior camp, I am reminded of the potential of those young children. What a privilege to see boys and girls trust Christ as their Savior and others dedicate their lives to serving Him. I am convinced that God can protect them from evil influences and set them on a course for an honorable and rewarding life.

I witnessed the hard work of our teen workers who generally serve without reward, or even much recognition. “Move those coolers. Unload that trailer. Set up the equipment so our kids can compete in a game.” Nothing more was needed to set them into action. No paycheck. No rewards from the campers who would benefit. Just a week’s full of humble service – and a lot of bug bites. I am convinced that God kept an accurate record of their labor and will reward far better than we ever could. I also believe that unselfish service is something upon which you can build a fruitful life.

Finally, this morning I sat around a table in the café with three young men. Each is between fifteen and seventeen years old. Each woke up on a Saturday (and a holiday) to attend a monthly prayer breakfast. Each bowed his head and spoke with the Lord, interceding for the needs of others. Each recognized with gratitude the freedoms they enjoyed and the Lord’s provision of them. Each mentioned the spiritual needs of others, either rejoicing over someone’s salvation or requesting that another would respond to the gospel message. In my heart the Lord replaced discouragement with a strong sense of confidence and expectation.

If only a newspaper reporter would have been there to write about them. I could provide him with dozens of similar subjects and hundreds of headlines. I simply would like the world to discover what I was reminded of again this morning. There is always hope – for an individual, a community, or the world – as long as our God is involved.

Summer Camp

Years ago the choices for summer camp were fairly limited. There were lots of church camps and maybe a few secular or scout-type camps. However, almost everybody went somewhere for at least a week. Church camps were opportunities to remove worldly distractions and focus attention on the spiritual lives of children and teenagers, especially through good preaching. Plus campers had a great time and were exposed to the great outdoors. Ask enough people in the ministry (older than 35) and you’ll find many that either trusted Christ at camp or committed their lives to full-time service. Perhaps one of the reasons that fewer young people consider “vocational ministry” these days is a decreased emphasis on summer camps or a change in the focus of such camps.

Along those lines there is a noticeable trend regarding summer camps: Fewer Christian parents view Christian summer camps as absolutely important for their children. Fewer children and teens attend church camps. Churches (pastors & staff) become discouraged in their efforts to recruit campers. Some churches give up and quit promoting these types of camps altogether. Camp ministries fade as tools for spiritual growth of young people.

Why has this happened? It is not because of time or money considerations. Young people are attending camps in record numbers. Dozens of specialty camps are offered to our children every summer. They promise to make your child a better hitter, kicker, actor, wrestler, musician or free throw shooter. They are anything but inexpensive. Before you jump to any conclusions about my limited perspective, consider that my children attend sports camps every summer. My daughter will attend two weeks of music academy in July. But these will never replace the value of Christian camp in my book.

Missionaries around the world continue to use summer camp as a prime method for reaching young people and helping them grow into mature believers. This week we sent approximately fifty teens to North Carolina for an exciting week at an awesome camp. I have spent a lot of time praying for a spiritual impact in the lives of our teenagers. Church leaders and parents should reconsider the value of this time-tested tool.

One result of diminished emphasis on Christian camps will be that churches will suffer from a lack of dedicated and trained ministers. But we should have plenty of excellent hitters for our church softball teams.